We are honored to highlight this week’s Smarty Dad, Hyong Zanga. His wife, Catherine, contacted us hoping to pay tribute to this wonderful husband and father. We’re so grateful that she did. Catherine and Hyong’s story is below – in Catherine’s own words. Thank you so much for sharing your story and Hyong with us, Catherine. Happy Fathers Day, Hyong!
Smarties, meet this week’s Smarty Dad, Hyong Yi!
Married to: Catherine Zanga for 11 years
Children: Anna Soon Yi (9) and Alexander Sahngjin Yi (5)
Hometown: Seoul, South Korea
Years in Charlotte: 10 years
‘Hood: Mt. Isle Harbor (Mountain Island Lake area)
Alma Mater: American University
Catherine, Tell us why you are writing to honor Hyong?
You know how people say that adversity shows someone’s true character? Sadly, I have had the chance to see Hyong’s character in spades since February 2013. At the beginning of that month, after weeks of thinking that I had one heck of a chest/lung infection, I was sent to the Emergency Department by my doctor, admitted to the hospital for five days, and diagnosed with Stage IV ovarian cancer. I was 39. Hyong was 40. Our children were 7 and 4.
From the beginning, Hyong has stayed true to his wedding vows, and walked this path of sickness with me. He sits with me throughout the nights in hospital rooms during my various overnights. He comes to almost every medical appointment with me. He changes dressings and bandages. He helps me go to the bathroom when, because of a surgical procedure, I cannot manage it on my own. The fluid in my chest has made it harder to breathe, so he holds my arm to help me walk, and pushes me around in a wheelchair at other times.
When the chemo makes me sick to my stomach, he helps me find food that I can eat. When the fatigue from the chemo makes activity, even thinking, challenging, he takes over almost all tasks for the house – from laundry to grocery shopping to bill paying to making sure that the kids do their homework. When the chemo puts sores in my mouth, he blends everything, even soup, so that I can try to get something to eat.
After a draining catheter was installed in my chest in an attempt to help my breathing, his workload, with me, increased. He now helps me shower each day. Every few days, he cleans the catheter site, hooks a bottle up to the tube coming out of my chest, and pulls out fluid until stopping it when it turns to blood. And when, around Hyong, I start to feel sorry for myself, and for my kids, and for what Hyong’s life is now and will be when my struggle is over, and I start to cry, he’s there for me emotionally.
No one should have to watch their spouse go through this, much less be doing the work of a home nurse. Hyong has a full-time job. We have two young children, with whom I am not much help anymore. Throughout this all, Hyong has continued to be an amazing dad, playing with the kids and giving them the hands-on attention they need. This is why I am writing about Hyong. He was blindsided, as were we all, by my diagnosis. And despite the hardship, both physically and emotionally, he is the main reason why our family is still functioning as a family.
Tell us a little bit more about what makes Hyong a great dad?
Hyong is always there for the kids, not simply physically, but emotionally as well. He does not simply go through the motions of parental responsibilities, but rather has his heart in it as well. For example, when he comes home from work, he takes time to interact with them, cheerfully, no matter how tired he is. For our son, that means allowing him (our son) to climb all over him (Hyong). For our daughter, that means listening to whatever she wants to discuss. It would be obvious to an observer that he loves being a dad. And it is obvious to me, as his wife, that he loves being a dad.
Anything else about Hyong that you’d like to share with us?
Only this: If I have to leave my children at a young age, I feel fortunate that they will have Hyong as their remaining parent. He may not be perfect – who is? – but I know that my kids, our kids, will never feel unloved. In addition, he has touched so many people in the community through his personality, that they have and will be a great source of support for him and the kids. That says a lot about him as a person and not just as a dad.
Thank you so much to Catherine for sharing her story – it’s a tough one to share. We know that Smarty Charlotte wants to get involved where there is a need. Catherine asked us to share two outstanding organizations with you to learn more about giving back to people in similar situations: Lydia’s Legacy for Gynecological Cancer and Ovarian Cancer Coalition of Charlotte.